Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry is a semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use.

During a contextual inquiry users are first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments.

Because users are interviewed in their own environments, the analysis data is more realistic than laboratory data.

The four principles of contextual inquiry are:

  • Focus - Plan for the inquiry, based on a clear understanding of your purpose
  • Context - Go to the customer's workplace and watch them do their own work
  • Partnership - Talk to customers about their work and engage them in uncovering unarticulated aspects of work
  • Interpretation - Develop a shared understanding with the customer about the aspects of work that matter

The results of contextual inquiry can be used to define requirements, improve a process, learn what is important to users and customers, and just learn more about a new domain to inform future projects.

We learn by seeing how things are done in the real world. This makes sense, because that’s where your products will end up being used.

The Usability People have conducted hundreds of these interviews and have the knowledge and experience to learn directly from your customers in a systematic way. We provide detailed reports on the user's environment and work habits. These results will help you determine which features or functions to include in your next product release.

For more information on our contextual inquiry services: